Friday, September 21, 2001

Guess who's coming to dinner?

For the most part, I am not the same guy I used to be when I was in college. For that much, I am also not the same guy I was when I was in high school. Though I look back on those days with a sense of pleasurable remembrance, let's not fool each other - back then I was a pig.

What is a pig?

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face. His shoes are a terrible disgrace. He's got no manners when he eats his food. He's fat and lazy and extremely rude. So if you don't care a fiddle or a fig, you might grow up to be a pig.

I am still dealing with my parents coming for a visit. It's quite a deal to have visitors. For the most part, we love it. It's hotel Nixon and that's the way thing were meant to be.

In a certain way, we bridge the gap between our current home (Colorado) and our previous home (Kansas City) when people come and visit with us.

Let's be honest - we don't always get people we expect. This was especially true when in Washington. Many people traveled to Washington that clearly used us as a place to stay and not much more.

That's no so much fun.

However, it's fair to say that it's normally entertaining to entertain. But as the host or hostess, we have some rules of thumb to helps us remain sane.

1. Of course, the first one, which is not a huge benefit to our sanity, is that we never say no to someone coming and asking to visit. It's just not hospitable.

2. Another rule of thumb, and one that has proven itself is that visitors who stay longer than four days tend to stay a little too long. Parents and good friends are the exception, but for the most part, this is a tried and true number.

If we have some visitors that are planning a longer visit, we often encourage them to visit somewhere else at either end of their trip - or even in the middle to help add texture to their experience, and to help the overall atmosphere.

3. Something else that we have had to start considering is children. Right about now, Paul Cooper and I are the only couples our age I know of that don't have kids or aren't pregnant. This is a whole realm of issues.

Consider this, when a couple comes and they bring their child they are, first, apologetic. It just seems to happen - they cower as their child cries, smile as they discard used diapers, and raise their eyebrows in an awkward way when something of ours is mistakenly broken or stained.

From our point of view, we like children - so it seems a silly, eternal exercise to try and convince the awry parent to be comfortable again.

Also, Parents (especially parents) often feel that they should drive when we go places because of the child seat, but more often than not - they and we would be far better off if we take the few minutes to transfer the chair and we drive our car - as locals to the area, it makes sense who should be the driver.

However, if these issues are the practices that help visitors enjoy a visit, there are certainly characteristics that make up a great houseguest in return.

Here is a compilation of some of our better experiences.

1. Most people who come to visit are here for vacation. It kills me how thinly people run themselves when they are on vacation. I appreciate it when a visitor wants to stop, sit down, talk, play some cards and just relax for a while. Some have too little time for this luxury - but it sure aids in our enjoyment and relaxation can't hurt a vacationer.

2. Another great thing is to eat at home. If you can't stop and sit, the next best thing is to insist on some burgers on the grill for an evening meal. Even if we have to pull up a folding chair, few things are more meaningful than a meal together.

3. Some visitors get up earlier than I do - most of the world does - but it's reassuring to us as the host when a guest feels comfortable enough to start their own coffee, or rummage through our pantry for the cereal or whatever. It's a fine line between feeling at home and invading our privacy - but common sense guides this process pretty acutely.

4. Remember the token dinner. We all know that meals at home aren't free - we all know that water doesn't grow on trees, entry fees to XYZ that we have already done three times that month - it's an impact, that's why they invented the token dinner. You'll know the time when it comes. It's the absolute perfect moment for the guest to casually offer to pay and equally appropriate for the host to reluctantly concede.

5. We had a guest do something so out of the ordinary that I have not forgotten it. We had to leave early that morning because of church; they were headed home. When we got home, all of the dishes in the sink were cleaned and in the dishwasher. What a pleasant effort of care to make.

6. We have pictures on our walls, wind chimes, thermometers, and even steaks in our freezer thanks to guests buying us gifts. But, let's be clear - though an enteraing gesture - this is not something we ever anticipate.

7. Only every so often do guests overlook that we still have a household to run; giving us a chance to keep bills paid, carpets cleaned and oil changed can be a generous gift in itself.

8. Basically, if you want to be a good guest - be tidy. Some guests actually move in. It's a weird happening. For example, our kitchen counters get cluttered with personal affects, our fridge is full of foreign objects, socks linger beside the couch. It's really strange, and a little unsettling.

9. Finally, if you are nice, if you are pleasant, if you are easy going - you are probably the better sort of guests. Go with the flow - have some opinions on what you want to fill your days, hesitate to complain, make your bed and it's an easy bet you'll be welcome back next time.

Okay. So, what was my point there? To be honest my agenda was to codify my experience more than impact people's actions. Who am I fooling; no one by I read the volumes of this welcome section anyway!

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